This May, Mountain Madness welcomed me and nine other new guides and apprentices to their guide training; essentially an epic climbing road trip focused on guide development. Modeled similarly to the Madness Alpine Climbing Course, the training covered glacier and rock skills, culminating with alpine climbing objectives.
Beginning on Mount Baker, we practiced teaching glacier travel skills and crevasse rescue. Our time there concluded with short roping each other up the Roman Wall to the summit and a ski descent! In Leavenworth we drilled in the intricacies of guiding groups in multipitch terrain. Applying our hard work and new knowledge, we guided each other up classic routes at Castle Rock. Our training crescendoed with two days of mock guiding alpine lines in Washington Pass.
Before goodbyes, we each shared an image or moment that stood out to us on the eight days we spent together on this wonderful climbing road trip. I’d like to share some of those images and moments with you and invite you to join us on our guides training.
Lower Coleman Glacier, Mount Baker: During our crevasse rescue practice, we stop in awe at the massive chunks of ice cleaving off the cliff side to our left. Every twenty minutes, refrigerator sized blocks tumble and crash. Its beautiful when you know it can’t hit you!
Roman Headwall, Mount Baker: Our instructors sneak up on our side and exclaim, “You look so pro!” They were impressed by our neat kiwi coils, good stances, and consistent taught pressure while we short roped our ‘clients’ through tricky steep terrain.
Coming down the Pumice Ridge, Mount Baker
Coleman Deming Glacier, Mount Baker: Our smiles are ear to ear, feeling giddy, laughing, and whooping! Skiing down a mountain is by far the best way to finish a climb!
Castle Rock, Tumwater Canyon: High up on Castle Rock, we look down and watch turkey vultures circle the roaring river. The day is sunny, the air smells of pine, and we get to rock climb!
South Arête, South Early Winter Spire, Washington Pass: We are practicing short roping again! This time the rock is slippery and the small trees along the route are accumulating several inches of snow. The clouds wandering through the rock spires and occasionally enveloping us makes the whole day feel extra alpine!
Just below the summit of Liberty Bell, Washington Pass
Liberty Bell, Washington Pass: Somehow the rock has dried for our final assessment. Each of us have a portion we are responsible for: the approach, ascent, or descent, on three different routes: The Becky Route (5.6), Rapple Grapple (5.8) and The Girl Next Door (5.9). We all summit and celebrate our success and the 360 degree views of craggy, snow covered peaks. Grinning ear to ear again, we test each other’s boot skiing skills as we run, slide, and glide back to the cars.
The guide training at Mountain Madness left me feeling confident guiding in rock, glaciated, and alpine terrain and prepared to teach our clients the skills they need to be successful. I was sad when our climbing road trip ended, but really, it is just the beginning of many mountain adventures with my fellow guides and clients in the North Cascades!
- Amber Smith